ozma914: (Dorothy and the Wizard)
[personal profile] ozma914
By now most people have probably figured out that an eclipse is coming this Monday, as it tends to do here in America every so often. Still, I'm not sure everyone's completely clear on all the details, so I thought I'd answer some common questions:

Q: Why does everybody have to scream at everyone about everything these days?

No, I mean about the eclipse. 

Q: What the heck is this thing? Is this some holdover from the 2012 Apocalypse?

This is a reasonable question, since we're still waiting for the 2012 Apocalypse. An eclipse simply happens when the shadow from one body passes over another body. For instance, one day I was lying on a beach when movie maker Michael Moore moved by. Moore blocked out the sun and ruined my tan, thus saving me from skin disease. (He refused to give me an autograph, just because I asked him when his totality would be over.)

That's Michael, in the middle. Not so very big after all.

Q: Huh?

Moore is rather portly, although I've been gaining on him. If you're a liberal, feel free to insert Trump's name. Oh, you mean "huh" about totality? That's the area of the Earth's surface that's completely covered by the Moon's shadow, usually only for a minute or so. During totality is the only time--and I mean ONLY time--when you can safely look directly at an eclipse without eye protection. Unfortunately, the area of totality is only about 70 miles wide. For example, in northeast Indiana the eclipse will cover about 86% of the sun, so go buy those glasses.

Q: What will happen if I look at it without protection?

Have you ever watched that episode of the TV show Supernatural, when the psychic gets to look at the true face of an angel? It's like that. Nothing left but smoking eye sockets. And yeah, that looks cool for a second, but only to everyone else.

It's perfectly safe to look at the eclipse during totality. But if even a sliver of sun is showing before or after, POOF! Seeing eye dog time. (Or, you could maintain some vision but have "just" permanent damage.)


Q: What's so important about this eclipse?

Well, it's cool, even more cool than smoking eye sockets. Also, it's rare in that, for the first time in almost a century, it will traverse the entire U.S. from coast to coast, over fourteen states. That's happened only 15 times in the last 150 years.

I can block my house from here!

There are between two and five eclipses every year, but a total solar eclipse only happens every 18 months or so. Not only that, but when they do happen it's often in a place where most people don't see it, like over an ocean, or the Pacific northwest. According to this mathematical guy from Belgian, any certain spot on Earth will see a total eclipse once every 375 years. That's an average, and it's math, so I'm just taking his word for it.

This is the first time in 38 years that a total eclipse was visible anywhere in the continuous U.S. For perspective, at the time Jimmy Carter was President, and gas was 86 cents a gallon. St. Louis, which is in the path this time, last saw totality in 1442, when gasoline was even cheaper. Chicago, which saw one in 1806 but will miss this one, will next see totality in 2205, when fueling your flying car might be very expensive.

Scientists have determined there are two small areas of the country--one in northeast Colorado, and one near Lewellen, Nebraska--that haven't seen a total eclipse in over a thousand years. Talk about bad luck.

Q: So I'm guaranteed to get a good show?

Oh, heck no. See above joke about the Pacific northwest; the 1979 total eclipse over that area was largely unseen due to clouds and rain.

This isn't a Hollywood movie: Any number of things could spoil it, from bad weather to having Michael Moore stand in front of you. But I wouldn't sweat Michael (can I call him Michael?) who I've heard is looking after his health much better these days. No, the big question will be whether weather cooperates. My wife and I are heading into the path of totality, and I can pretty much guarantee a day-long driving rain, or possibly a hurricane, will hit central Missouri at about that time.

What I probably won't see

 Q: What effects can we expect?
  
Fire and brimstone, dogs and cats sleeping together, total chaos, new super powers, pretty much the worst parts of the Bible. Wait, that was in the movies. Well, it'll get dark, 'cause--no sun. In the path of totality you'll see stars (or clouds), and you'll also be in for a rare treat of seeing the sun's atmosphere with the naked eye. One cool thing I noticed during a partial eclipse was that sunlight passing through the trees cast thousands of little crescent shaped shadows.

Some animals might be fooled into thinking it's twilight. In fact, eclipses have been known to thin out the local vampire population.

Geeks like me will geek out. People who don't understand, or don't care about, the difference between reality and Hollywood special effects might be disappointed.

Q: What are the greatest dangers?

As with many things in our modern society, the greatest danger might be driving. Officials expect major traffic jams as millions of people try to get into the path of totality. For those who don't make it on time or aren't expecting it, the danger is that they'll be driving down the road, trying to stare at the eclipse, only to ram someone who pulled over along the side of the road to watch the eclipse. Don't do either of those.

Otherwise, there's that smoking eye socket thing. Interestingly, during partial eclipses when the brightness doesn't seem too bad, infrared waves from the sun can still cause damage by overheating the eye, in a boiling egg kind of a way. Disturbed yet? Me, too.

Enjoy these eclipses while you can: The Moon's orbit is slowly getting larger, so the time will come when it will be too far away to completely cover the sun, meaning the end of total eclipses. Scientists predict this will happen in less than 600 million years, so go look while you still can.
ozma914: (ozma914)
[personal profile] ozma914
Farewell to Matt Smith, who is retiring from the Albion Fire Department after 14 years of service. Matt, in addition to being an active firefighter and the AFD Secretary for several years, formerly served on the Albion Town Council, and was also an EMT with the Noble County EMS.

 

 

Here Fire Chief Brad Rollins, on the left, presents Matt with his helmet shield as a token of appreciation for his years of service.
 
(Matt, who works full time as a technical writer, is no relation to Doctor Who, although I've always felt his heart is bigger on the inside.)
ozma914: (Dorothy and the Wizard)
[personal profile] ozma914
I'm way behind on this, due to medical and internet problems--this movie did so poorly at the box office that I wouldn't be surprised if it wasn't showing any more.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is living proof that just being fun won't save a movie. And VatCofTP (say, let's just call it Valerian) really is fun, as well as being visually stunning. Unfortunately, that just makes its faults more obvious when compared to the moviemaker's previous fun and visual flick, The Fifth Element, which benefits from better casting decisions.

Major Valerian (Dane DeHaan) is a special operative, basically a combination secret agent/Navy SEAL. He and his partner, Sgt. Laureline (Cara Delevingne) drop their spaceship into problem areas James Bond style, and in this case they're assigned to investigate Alpha, a mysterious cancer that's spreading through a remarkable space-borne city in which species from across the galaxy learn from each other, exchange cultures, and party.

Gee, we only see a hundred planets.


Then things get confusing. Well, okay, they're already confusing, starting with an opening segment on a world so peaceful and beautiful you just know it's about to be demolished. We cut from there to Valerian and Laureline, who are arguing about getting married while landing on a planet bare of anything, unless you put on virtual reality visors and go on a huge shopping spree.

Soon they're neck deep in an effort to retrieve ... well, what they retrieve is related to the earlier planetary paradise, as is the rest of the movie, although how they're related doesn't become clear until toward the end. For some viewers, it doesn't become clear at all.

Some people were apparently never able to figure out what was going on. I was, eventually, but a large part of the movie is more about seeing neat things than about the actual plot. I'm okay with that in theory; still, a little consistency and logic are also nice, and Valerian tends to be weak in those areas.

But my biggest problem was the casting. Major Valerian plays like a much older character, and apparently was, in the comics; DeHaan comes off as a lightweight, and just can't make us believe he's an experienced, senior ranked operative in a galaxy-wide security service. Worse, he has little chemistry with Delevingne, who I found much more believably bad-ass. The movie slows to a crawl whenever their romance comes up, and one has to wonder why she hasn't already requested a different partner. I'd be happy to see her play the same part again, and some of my favorite moments of the movie were when she worked solo. Him, not so much.

I suppose the original characters would be too old, now.


Otherwise Valerian provided in spades what we've come to expect from movie space opera: great effects and action sequences, weird aliens, last minute saves, and bad guys doing things that don't always make sense. But in a way that was the problem: Everything got thrown at the screen, losing the story and characters in the process.

My score:
entertainment value: 3 M&Ms out of 4 ... and remember, I'm easily entertained.
Oscar potential: 1 M&M out of 4. Not that it couldn't get nominations for something like effects or makeup, but overall VatCofTP is as overly complicated as trying to shorten the title.
ozma914: (Dorothy and the Wizard)
[personal profile] ozma914

Remember when your utilities were gas, electric, water, and maybe phone, and the idea of having the world at your fingertips and a screen in your hands was something for rich people or science fiction characters?

No, me neither. But I got a taste of first world stone age when our internet went out at the beginning of this month. How great is it that Mediacom convinced me to get my home phone service through them, then told me I'd be out for two weeks after both it and our internet went dark? It's so great, it makes me want to just injure my back and lay there, unable to use the internet or talk on the phone, or move. That's how great it was.

And that's the irony of it, that it failed at a time when I was flat on my back and could have used it most.

(Truth in advertising: It actually hurt to lay flat on my back. I was in more of a fetal position.) 

 But there's a bright side: By the time the pain eased enough for me to do anything at all, I worked on writing or--wait for it--reading. In the week and a half or so we've gone without, I wrote a submission outline for my newest novel, and got halfway through a final polish on the manuscript. I'm also halfway through the first novel I've read all summer.

That's the good news. The bad news is that when I do do internet stuff (and we all know there's a lot of online do-do), I often ended up using my phone. I didn't think twice about it until I got a notice that, 25% into the month, I'd used up 75% of my data. For you older people, that's like gossiping on a party line until the other users start yelling for you to get off the phone.

That's why I'm stealing the internet you're getting this from right now. *ahem* Borrowing. It's also why I'm not online as much as usual, even though I'm still limited in other things I can do. First world problems, yeah, but I'm paying for my first world stuff with money I earned by helping other people with their first world problems.

And when I called the people providing me with that first world service, who out of fairness I shouldn't name, they said a serviceman would be right there, in about two weeks.

Thank you, Mediacom. Thankyouverymuch.

Basically I'm telling you this because the service guy is supposed to be here today (they moved it up three days, so why am I complaining?) I don't want to vent on the repair guy, because it isn't his fault, so I'm venting on you. There. Vented.

How things go today will determine what kind of mood I'm in tomorrow ... but either way my smart phone won't be very smart for the rest of the month, and I suspect M******m isn't going to reimburse me for that.

"I feel like something's just crushing me." Kidding! This was taken after my sinus surgery.

 

ozma914: new novel cover art by Kelly Martin (Default)
[personal profile] ozma914
 Two of our books are going to be auctioned off this Saturday to benefit the Central Noble Food Pantry, which happens to be one of my neighbors.

 

We donated copies of Radio Red and Hoosier Hysterical: How the West Became the Midwest Without Moving at All; they'll be auctioned along with other items at the Moose Lake Christian Craft Village, at 11330 E 500 S, LaOtto. The benefit's planned for this coming Saturday, August 12, from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.

 

I haven't been there myself, but I hear it's a great place to visit. There's a seven dollar entry fee but that's for the whole day, including a visit from Johnny Appleseed (who I write about in Hoosier Hysterical, come to think of it). There's swimming, fishing, paddle boats, music, crafts, wagon and pony rides, and all sorts of other neat stuff, which you can probably find out more about by visiting their Facebook page.

 

I don't know if our books are going to be auctioned together or separately, but it would be really nice if someone would stop by and put their money down, and maybe bring a nonperishable food product for donation, too. The C.N. Food Pantry is just two doors down from me, and they do great work for the community.

 

Of course, the books won't be the only thing auctioned off! The list I saw includes a whole hog, tools, gift certificates, a Moose Lake family pass and weekend cabin stay, and a whole bunch of other stuff.

 

Call Bonnie if you have any other questions, at 260 564-8160. Check it out, have some fun and, as I always say, buy our books!

 

 

 
ozma914: new novel cover art by Kelly Martin (Default)
[personal profile] ozma914
 Emily and I are going to be at the Kendallville Public Library's Art and Author Fair, which, perhaps not surprisingly, is going to be at the Kendallville Public Library in September.

 

It's this whole big thing, held in conjunction with the Kendallville Chamber of Commerce "Showcase Kendallville and Job Fair", and it's all going to be at the library Friday, September 15, from 2-7 p.m. We've already been to a group book signing with some of the other authors! It'll be like coming home again. Actually, it'll be like writing home again. The library's page for the event is here:

 

http://kendallvillelibrary.org/about-us/library-news/art-and-author-fair/

 

And you can let everyone know you're going on the facebook page, here:

 

https://www.facebook.com/events/261574904246629

 

Is that cool, or what? Yes. Yes, it is.

 

 

Back Cracking and Mower Mania

Aug. 6th, 2017 11:13 am
ozma914: mustache Firefly (mustache)
[personal profile] ozma914

So ... kind of a sucky week.

 

Actually, all of July kind of sucked, and the first few days of August just went along with it. Come to think of it, 2017 as a whole hasn't exactly been stellar.

 

But never mind that, let's go to the lawn mower. I never did get this out on all my social media, so you might not have seen it:

 

For the record, the tire is not supposed to go that direction.

 

This is the same mower my stepfather repaired for me after the carburetor crapped out. A carburetor is a ... thing ... that does ... something ... in an engine. According to my wife's research, the carburetors in this particular engine brand are now made out of plastic. Plastic in a piece of equipment that's designed to burn stuff under pressure. Yeah.

 

Now, this would be the same mower that gave me other problems, including a gas cap that wouldn't stay on and other small pieces that seemed to fall off at random. In addition, the little bar that stops the mower from running if you release the handle kept it from starting at all, until I bent the control wire in an un-designed direction. In retrospect, I should have known it was a lemon from the get-go, but it didn't become clear to me until after the warranty ran out.

 

And now there I was, pushing the mower across the yard, when suddenly the cut became uneven. It became uneven because one of the tires came off. And it wasn't just the tire: The whole assembly that held the tire to the mower deck just peeled away, like wet cardboard.

 

(I checked: It wasn't wet cardboard. It was metal that looked like web cardboard.)

 

So, for the second time, I didn't get to finish. I showed the above photo to my wife, and began my prepared speech, which was to be, "If you want to have someone fix it, that's fine, but you've got one week to get it done before I trash this piece of--"

 

I didn't get beyond "If you want" before she said, "Oh, we're getting rid of that thing."

 

My wife is a consummate researcher. It's because of her that I know about plastic carburetors, and what "consummate" means. It's in the dictionary. Who knew? Within days she narrowed down the new mowers, and then we went shopping.

 

For years I avoided mowers with grass catchers, because they fill up after about two passes. It took longer to mow a lawn than it does for me to assemble furniture, and I don't have that kind of time. But now we have a compost heap, which loves grass clippings, so Emily found a mower that could change between a rear bagger and a side discharge. Not only that, but it has four working wheels, and a three year warranty. Heaven in the grass.

 

It only took me a few hours to get it put together. And I needed to get on it, because the last two times I mowed, only about a third got done before disaster struck. It had been so long that the part already mowed needed it again, and that's where I started--a flat section, where I could get used to the new equipment.

 

I was being careful, you see.

 

But I didn't take something into consideration. I accounted for the new mower,  but not the extra weight of the bag filling up. So, when I went to turn a corner on a hill, the mower zigged and my spine zagged.

 

I'd mowed a third of the lawn--the same third I mowed last time--before my lower back went "twang!"

 

It didn't sound exactly like that, of course, but that's kind of how it felt. And that's why I didn't go online much for awhile: It hurt to type. It hurt to walk, sit, lay down, lift a finger, swallow, think ... well, it hurt to think about the pain, anyway. It hurt so much that I came to appreciate my  chronic back pain. Sure, that hurt all the time too, but it didn't feel like the red hot barbed tridents they use in Hell.

 

But my wife, through experience, has become a very good nurse. Three days later I was able to go back to work, and if you ask me I did a pretty good job of hiding the fact that my pain had only been reduced to agony status.

 

What have I learned from this, you ask? Well, first, always keep some of the good pain pills around the house. More important, either get a goat, or hire someone to mow your lawn. I'm leaning toward that last--I can only imagine how badly I'd get hurt dealing with a goat.

 

 

Words, words, words

NSFW Aug. 5th, 2017 06:01 pm
shaddyr: Writing (Writing CH 1)
[personal profile] shaddyr
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